Republican Sen. Susan Collins of Maine is in a tough fight for re-election, and it just got tougher.
Known for her relative independence historically, Collins' once soaring popularity has plummeted in her home state as she has been tied ever-closer to President Donald Trump, who is not popular with Maine voters. Her standing in the state seems to have been especially hurt by her support for the extremely controversial Justice Brett Kavanaugh during his 2018 nomination to the Supreme Court.
The last thing she would have wanted to do in the run-up to her re-election is wade into another Supreme Court battle, but that's where she finds herself. While the fight may help some Republican senators at risk in red states like Montana, it creates an impossible choice for Collins. If she supports the president's nominee to replace the late Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, she will almost certainly outrage the majority of her state that dislikes the president. But if she doesn't support the nominee, then she risks alienating Trump supporters — who she desperately needs to have any chance of keeping her seat. A mealy-mouthed compromise position is likely to please no one.
She has already come out with such a position, saying she opposes the president nominating a new justice while also refusing to directly state that she would vote against any nominee. But Republicans plan to vet and vote on the new nominee before the election, so Collins' half-a-loaf answer isn't likely to stay fresh until Nov. 3.
And after her remarks were public, the president came after Collins directly.
"I think Susan Collins is very badly hurt by her statement yesterday," Trump said Monday morning on Fox News. He said the same about Republican Sen. Lisa Murkowski, who expressed a similar sentiment to Collins', though the Alaska senator is not up for re-election. "I think that Susan Collins is going to be hurt very badly — her people aren't going to take this. People are not going to take it."
Trump's comments are a major blow to Collins, exacerbating the already fraught dynamics of the issue for her.
And she already appears to be in trouble. Her Democratic opponent, Sara Gideon, has staked out a decent lead in several recent polls. One pollster had Gideon up by as much as 12 points ahead of Collins, though other polls assessed her lead as a more modest, but still formidable, 4 to 7 points.
The stress of the situation seems to be getting to Collins. CNN reporter Manu Raju said that he pressed the senator on her ambiguous statement about a potential nominee on Monday night, and she became "testy."
"I put out a statement, did you even bother to read it?" she said.
"But Collins didn't say if that [statement] means she would definitely vote no, and her office has not responded to questions about it," Raju noted. "She wouldn't answer either and walked onto a senators-only elevator."
You can watch the clip below via Twitter: